Arthur C. Clarke and Shirley Clarke Fire Lasers at the Chelsea

Arthur C. Clarke and Shirley Clarke Fire Lasers at the Chelsea

“One time,” Wendy Clarke recalled, “Arthur C. Clarke came over and he had just gotten this small laser that you can hold with your hands.” The science fiction author, another Chelsea resident, had been given the handheld laser beam projector by a crew member who was working on the film adaptation of his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. The mischievous Clarkes (who were not related) projected the laser onto the Twenty-Third Street sidewalk below—and then Shirley, dressed as Groucho Marx, did a slapstick routine while playing with the beam on the ground. “People on the street would become fascinated with the beam,” said Nancy Cain, a member of another collective called the Videofreex. “They would try to take the beam with them as they walked all the way down the street and then they would turn the corner, but the beam couldn’t turn the corner with them.” Viva recalled, “I was with Arthur when he and Shirley had the laser. I said, ‘Isn’t it kind of dangerous?’ They said, ‘No no no, it’s fine.’ Well, I wasn’t so sure.” Viva and Shirley got to know each other when the two worked together on the 1969 film Lion’s Love. “I was married at the time to Michel Auder, and he, Shirley, and I all moved into the Chelsea. Shirley had the penthouse, and we also had a place, so we became close friends.”

From Chapter 22 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Chelsea Hotel
222 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011